West African countries replace CFA franc

Eight West African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – announced their intent to cease using the CFA franc, a France-backed currency used by former colonies in the region, beginning July 1, and renamed a common currency, the Eco.

The countries are members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, or WAEMU, and all, except Guinea-Bissau, are former French colonies.

The new currency is slated to launch at the end of the year. Establishing a new currency has been a pursuit of West Africa for decades and talks have been stronger since ECOWAS leaders met last June.

A Central African CFA currency is in use as well, but only the West African CFA will sever ties to France. The currencies are interchangeable.

Doing so would ease the cost of business, decrease trade barriers and raise the prosperity of a region of more than 380 million people.

The currencies are backed by the Banque de France, also known as the French Treasury, and have a fixed exchange rate of 655.957 to the euro.

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